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Climbing – 2

In this post I’ll talk a little bit about why the 3 key points are important, and then talk a little about a few other basics. So to recap, the 3 most important points are:

  • Think feet before hands
  • Breathe on the wall
  • Stay close to the wall

So why feet? The most instinctual thing when you are off the ground, is to think about what you need to do, to stay up and not fall. And that translates into grabbing whatever you see first, really hard and not letting go. That will not work. Look at it logically. Look at the size of your biceps and triceps. Now look at the size of your thigh muscles, front and back. Its almost certain that your thigh muscles are larger, and hence they can take much more stress than your arms. Your arms are there primarily to balance you, not the other way around.

Why breathe? If you don’t breathe deeply on the wall, not all your muscles receive enough oxygen and hence get tired faster. This almost always results in flawed decision making, grabbing at holds, not taking time to look at where you’re putting your feet and eventually just falling off. If you breathe, you have way way way more time on the wall. And more often than not, you will be able to complete problems that you thought you would not be able to complete.

And staying close to the wall is sort of linked with the first point. You want to give your arms as little work as possible. The further you are from the wall, the more you are reliant on your hands to hold you up. And if that happens, you’re going to fall off. Again.

Of course, there are exceptions to all these rules, but largely if you internalize these principles and try and apply them whenever you climb, you’ll be in good shape. In the next post, I’ll talk a little about the basics of foot and hand position.

Climbing – 1

I climb a fair deal. All indoor for now, but who knows – some day I’ll climb outside. Anyway, I love to blog when I get reasonably good at something. And I feel the time is about right for that now.

I got back to climbing about a year ago in Boston, last year. I enjoy physical activity in limits. What I mean by that, is that I am never going to be the guy who goes crazy in the gym or participates in 1 triathlon after the other or bikes 100 miles every weekend. I don’t care enough to do that. But I’m not one to shirk it either. I’m somewhere in between, as with 99% of the rest of my life😉.

The point though is that rock climbing is the one sport that has continued to attract my attention, even after a year. Nothing ever, apart from soccer when I was a teenager, that is physical in nature has held my attention for so long. And make me want to continue to get better at it. And so, I plan to write as and when there is something new I learn, in my own way. There’s plenty of great, great videos online of course and I won’t pretend to equal them or teach better than them. So don’t learn from me, just read whatever posts I put out when you can, and see the sport through my eyes🙂

So, if you’ve never climbed before, I do recommend you try it out once. And do it indoors, ideally instead of on some desolate rock face with 2 of your friends. Its just easier and takes away the fear of breaking a leg somewhere with no doctor to go to if things get bad.

And once you get on to the wall, remember 3 things:

  1. Your legs are much stronger than your arms. When in trouble, think feet, not hands.
  2. Breathe. Each time you take 2 steps. Breathe. Consciously.
  3. Stay close to the wall.

Of course there’s plenty more, and I’ll explain why all this is important. For a first post though, this is enough.

Placeholder – Mt. McCausland

Climbed Mt.McCausland on the Sunday of the Labor Day weekend with Akhil and Arjun. Good fun and brought back a few memories🙂. Thought of blogging but there was really nothing great that happened, unless you count me driving some 50 odd miles in Akhil’s car, making lots of mistakes and having him thank me for sparing his life at the end🙂

First time paddleboarding

Not that this is something new that I did, since its been a month or two since I did it. Anyway, it was quite a lot of fun – and I did want to do it once more before the summer ended, but that didn’t happen. So figured I’d write a short blog about it as a placeholder to read again when I’m old. Okay, even older than now. Happy?😉

So I went over to NWOC and rented a paddle-board. Remember, I’ve never handled a paddle-board or a kayak ever. But reading stuff and watching videos online made me feel that it wasn’t really that hard. And as it turned out, apart from a few hiccups going out, on the lake itself and er coming in everything else was just fine🙂

I managed to first look clueless when putting on a life jacket, and not know if it was the right size or not. I still don’t. I guess the simple rule though is, if it is too tight it is too small and if too loose, it is too large. I’m smart, I tell you. Very very smart. Oh stop smirking.

Next up was getting on to the board. They hooked a little springy wire to my ankle, and told me to crawl onto the board. This I managed, albeit with a little difficulty. Of course then I try paddling, forgetting that I’m supposed to paddle on both sides. And keep going straight as an arrow into the side of a yacht standing there. That’d have wiped my salary out for a few months if I’d hit it.

Luckily someone took a little more pity on me, saw that I was behaving like a drunk sailor on the lake, without the alcohol, and reminded me that there was water on both sides of the boat. Oh yes. Luckily I remembered how to “back-paddle” which basically is dipping your paddle in at the back and dragging it forward.

Anyway, now I was all set, drunk with success and paddled off into the center of Lake Union as if I’d done this some 100 times. All was actually well, until I tried to actually stand up on the board. What do I mean, you ask? Since, SUP is “Stand Up Paddle-boarding”. Not if you’re me, I’d invented a new version called OKP (“On knees Paddle-boarding”). So as I said, I tried to stand up. Promptly a wave came, wobbled the board, the paddle and er me making me nearly fall into the lake. And that ended that fancy attempt at standing up.

All else was quite good, really and I managed to go on my knees all the way across the lake to Gas works park, pause in the middle, look around at everyone on their fancy boats drinking beers. I wish I had a boat so I could do that too. HaHa. Of course not. I was just testing if you were still reading😉.

By this time though, my knees were really sore and I dearly wished I could stand up but sadly, lacked to courage to do it this time. Maybe next time. Some day, some year. So I made it back in 1 piece across the lake, and decided to return the board. But er where? Where the hell did I rent it from??😮 So then I go in and out between the houseboats, all the while trying to stay calm and not panic. There’s no Google Maps on the lake you see and I’ve been spoiled.

Anyway, after some 15 minutes of sore rowing, I managed to figure out where I was, go in, gently hit someone else’s paddle-board due to my incompetence at rowing, but eventually make it back in 1 piece. Lol.

Walked a couple of miles to Fremont, grabbed an iced tea at Flying Apron and caught a bus home. Pretty sore, raw knees and some slightly sore shoulders, but overall it was a lot of fun, and I’ll do it again someday, somewhere.



Visit to Anchorage

If you’re going to visit Alaska, unless you’re a big winter sport, adventure fan (which I don’t mind but am not a big fan of) – its best you visit in July, Aug or Sep. At least its going to be fairly pleasant at that time at around 60-70F. And these days if I have a long weekend, I try and get out of the house to avoid staring at my laptop🙂 – and go somewhere I haven’t been before or do something I haven’t done. Sometimes it feels forced, but I think it will be beneficial in there long run. Anyway, on the July 4 weekend – I flew over to Anchorage and had some fun.

I talked a little to a colleague at office as well to identify a few of the nice spots I could go to, made plans and for once got to the airport in decent time. I ended up standing in the Alaska line for TSA instead of Delta for nearly 10 minutes before it suddenly clicked. Just because I was going to Alaska didn’t mean my flight was Alaska airlines ffs. Jeez. How dumb can one get? Then I run out, and run to another gate and stand in more lines which luckily move much much faster and save me from f****** things up again. I manage that once at least every trip, irrespective of where I am going and what I am doing. Its incredible.

The flight itself was quite nice, and I landed in Anchorage a little after noon. Sat at the airport, downloaded lots of offline Google maps and caught a bus into down-town. I’m happy there was at least a bus available, Alaska has one of the worst. And apparently its only Anchorage that at least has buses. I mean, I can understand it – I  guess, maybe its just not economical to run it.

Anyway, Anchorage down-town is a fairly tiny place so I roamed around a bit collecting maps and things. There was a little shuttle that took you to a few places for free, so I hopped into 1 of those and spent some time in this gift shop called the Ulu gift shop – where they make these knives that can cut anything. I’d have bought one but that’d have been a waste since I wasn’t checking anything in on my return flight.

Spent some time in the Saturday market which was full of fancy Alaskan foods and smells that everyone was delighting in. Well, everyone except me that is😀 because fancy food = king salmon and reindeer burgers. #-o. So I went to the only vegetarian place in Anchorage which was a tiny little yoga studio, run by a nice lady. We chatted a while about vegetarianism while she made me my food, which was okay – not too great, but really I was just happy to have something to eat and am truly grateful to Sandy and her little cafe.

Walked around a bit more and then spent a couple of hours in the Anchorage museum. For a while I was wondering why there was a TV that showed polar bears and walruses on the ice moving. Later (I’m a little slow as you can see) I figured out that it was a camera at the North Pole that was showing them moving live. So cool. I spent quite a while just watching them, hoping they’d do something but they were content to just flop about casually. Oh well.

Some more time I then spent trying to figure out how rockets shot up, how sound travelled between solids and lots of other cool things in the Discovery part of the museum. Of course, I couldn’t understand a lot of it due to paying zero attention to things as a kid in school and college. But I mean, if you love museums its best you spend a whole day at each. Else its always felt like its far too little time. Oh well, I waddled out and realized that my AirBnB host hadn’t yet replied (turns out she had but I didnt get it thanks to Virgin Mobile :|) , so I mailed her (from a free WiFi) and said I’d be there soonish.

There was still an hour or so till the second to last bus, so I spent a while wandering the truly desolate streets of Anchorage. The town itself is very very pretty, since there’s the Pacific all around and the mountains in the distance, so if you didn’t want to do anything – it is easy to just sit on the banks of a river somewhere and read a book🙂. Just that I wouldn’t call it ‘bustling down-town Anchorage’ as some of the flashy brochures did. We truly live in a world where every single thing is milked to its last drop and blown up. Oh well, I’ll stop😀

There’s also this little unique thing (to me anyway) called the Planet Walk, where someone had an idea of making people exercise while erecting the various planets at specific distances from each other. These apparently mimic what there is in the actual solar system. I got till Mars and then decided I’d go back to the Sun, which was where the bus-stop was. Pluto (which apparently is no longer a planet :-o) would have to wait😉.

Caught the second-to-last bus (3N) and went off towards East Anchorage. Well. I thought so anyway. The driver decided it wasn’t 3N but 36 and went off way South, leaving me thinking what the hell I was going to do if he dropped me somewhere far away. As in, I’d have to walk a good 7 – 8 miles to get home. Anchorage doesn’t run buses like Seattle and Portland🙂. And no GPS. And my brilliant mental compass (which to be fair is much better now). Anyway the driver turned around eventually after a lot of old ladies in the bus shouted at him that he was on the wrong route.

So I finally got off half an hour late at Boniface Parkway and walked to Lee Street and rang the bell a few times. No answer. Wtf. Now what, sleep outside the door?😀. Then there was another young couple from Wisconsin who showed up and said that this was the right place. Oh well. Good. It wasn’t a complete disaster🙂

Eventually an hour later I was wondering when my host was ever going to show up, coz I was tired, a little cold, a tiny bit irritated and very hungry. So I borrowed a phone from the nice couple and called my host up who said that the key had been inside a plastic bag hanging from the door of the storeroom forever. This is what comes of being very polite and not touching anything that you do not own. I was looking under carpets etc for keys but did not want to open the storeroom door for fear of being prosecuted for trespassing. Too.Much.Thinking.Bad.

Anyway all’s good. And these days, if a problem is solved – that’s it. No more needless ruminating about the past, like I’ve been guilty of in the past. Bernie was really nice and it was a lot of fun talking to her. Microwaved some food, planned the next day a little bit and then went to bed.

The next day, there were even fewer buses than on Saturday, so I needed to leave on time and make sure I caught the bus at around 10. Of course I left *just* on time, lost my way and ended up staring at a highway which said ‘No walking allowed’. Which of course then meant that I missed the bus. HaHa. By now though, I’m almost certain all this WILL happen, so I don’t let it get me down ever.

Instead I went off on a nice walk through this park called the Russian Jack Park. Again, like most parks it was a fairly large one, which I wished I’d had some more time to explore. But it was really very pretty, and also had some nice trails that took me in the same direction I needed to go to catch the next bus. By the time I got out, it started raining, the bus didn’t show up on time and a really depressed looking guy I tried asking said he had no clue where the bus went. By now I was wondering wtf I would do if the bus decided to not show up, wander East Anchorage all day I guess lol. Anyway, the bus did show up and I hopped in.

The bus ride was *not* pleasant. There was these loud teenagers talking about how they got drunk for a good 30 minutes, which unfortunately I had to hear🙂. I did try to mentally block them out, but was only partially successful. Need to work on that more. People are going to talk and yell and all that. Its their right. You have to be able to block it out. Not with headphones. Listen to every piece of crap they talk and let it just bounce off you. Oh well, moving on🙂

Went straight to the bike shop which has a nice shuttle that takes you up to FlatTop Mountain‘s base from where you do the hike up to the top. The shuttle has limited space though so I got put on a wait-list to go if someone didn’t show up. So I wandered off to the top of the parking lot as suggested and took in a view of Anchorage. View from the top of something are always nice. While I wouldn’t pay too much for it, free views are always welcome. Can’t do that for too long though.

Anyway, I got my slot in the shuttle and Pete drove us all off to the base while pointing out things along the way. Been a while since I hiked but the body thankfully still holds up and I could get up and down relatively quickly. The last bit is a little tricky with lots of rocks, but all my bouldering experience kicks in at that time and helps. Anyway its a nice little hike, maybe 2-3 hours overall, depending on how fit you are. Got back to the base and caught a bus home, was pretty sore – the plan of doing a bike ride as well was over optimistic🙂. Had a long chat about a lot of Bernie’s experiences, which were really fun. That’s what I love about AirBnB, you get to talk to people you wouldn’t get to – when staying at a hotel.

Fell asleep pretty quickly and awoke feeling much better. Bernie dropped me off in Downtown, where I rented a bike from the bike shop and went down the entire Tony Knowles coastal trail, which goes through a number of other parks and spots – each of which you can spend a day or two exploring. But that’s the thing, it’s never possible. Never. Unless you spend lots of time just doing all this stuff.

I took in the entire trail though this time, without rushing through it on a high gear. Geared bikes are great by the way, specially if you have an up-and-down trail. Even so, been so long since I rode a bike that my knees started to ache after 15 miles. Anyway, sometimes having experienced all those feelings before is useful, and the mind can kick in and push the body when it is dead. Same here. Made it back in 1 piece, albeit fairly sore. Lovely ride though, do it if you can. And kept running into a couple from London all the time where we chatted about football (NOT soccer :)) for a while as well. All good.

Bought some plain rice and chips from a heavily meat oriented joint and ate it sitting on the grass. Anchorage is one place where I have no option but to break my dietary rules. Its just not doable otherwise. Well, its doable – but I’d have to cook. And I do that enough in life🙂 to also do it 2000 miles away from home. So no. Just no.

Spent a while at a little Aurora lights show, which is a spectacular presentation made by a photographer who sat down in the nights and clicked pictures of those spectacular colours in the sky. No way you can see those now though. It needs to be really dark and fairly cold for those colours to be generated in the sky. Anyway its a bit pricey – but hey, I spend money on a lot of useless things in life I guess – so why not support someone who took the effort to do what he did.

Took a cab to the airport, and learnt that cab drivers don’t want you to sit in the front for safety reasons (people mug cab drivers too :-o) and it isn’t for privacy reasons at all, like I thought. Anyway it was quite nice chatting with Madrid (the cab driver), I like to chat with people about their careers and learn bits about what they go through on a day to day basis.

The Delta flight back was quite nice and we landed a bit early. Took the Link rail back to the U District and the 44 back home to wind up a very pleasant long weekend in one of the places I never thought I’d visit. But that’s all life is – if you stay open and be open to experiencing new things, there isn’t a limit to what you can learn. And do.

Until my next travels then, Adios🙂

Wrote a book

Wrote a book. Been working on it nearly 4 years now, on and off. Self-help. Its free. You can download it here if you want to read it. Or from Gutenberg. Or Leanpub.

It isn’t perfect, might be littered with minor errors here and there, might have imperfect English here and there and so on. But its a book, which hopefully has something someone can use and help themselves.

All feedback – good, bad and ugly is – as always – very welcome. Feel free to get in touch with me however you’d like, to talk about the book.

My social network is very very limited and I have neither the intention nor the energy to cultivate it and become famous. And hence, I ask only one thing of you here. If you like it and feel that someone somewhere can use it – recommend it to them, send them the PDF or whatever, put it on your Facebook page, tweet about it.. you get it.

Thank You.


Visit to Portland

I decided to do this fairly late, after I found out it was a 3 day weekend. So I was fairly happy I even got bus tickets fairly cheap.. with a round trip of about 55$. Also, since all the hostels were booked up I decided to go the AirBnB route for once, instead of a hotel – and found a nice place.. fairly soon as well for 55$ a night all included. Slightly more than what I wanted to pay, and a bit further in Vancouver, WA… but these days, I focus more on what I want to do rather than needlessly counting pennies like the past🙂. So that was that…

Bus at 6:45am Saturday. Means get up at 5 and get ready. Obviously, I slept late that night, and since the night before was bad as well, I tried snatching a little bit more sleep, and suddenly realized I was going to miss my bus to South Seattle. I duly did, and crossed my fingers that the next one was going to be on time coz otherwise I would miss my bus to Portland. Luckily, for once Sound Transit decided to come on time, and I got into BoltBus near 5th Ave S…and was off..

The bus ride was largely very pleasant though and not very long at 3 hours and a bit, should book more Bolt Bus and randomly go here and there. Making me do more random things that don’t necessarily hurt me, is something that I should thank Dinesh a lot for. But I digress, as usual ;)…

Hopped off at Downtown Portland, went off to Petunia’s to grab some biscuits and gravy before I started roaming around. Once that was done, I walked over to the Waterfront and walked all along the Willamette River. While doing so, I passed through the Saturday market, which was one of the largest handicraft markets I’ve seen. There was lots of really cool, very creative stuff that people had made here — clothes, furniture, paintings. Of course though, I didn’t buy anything – what would I do buying stuff? And a secondary question would be – where would I put it? There was 1 really cool tool called the Flint Survival tool, that you can use to start a fire anywhere – while camping. Not that I bought it, but if I do camp some day, its worth having for sure.

Portland has some really uniquely shaped bridges and the Steel Bridge was one such bridge. The Broadway Bridge, was also uniquely shaped and quite nearby as well, so I spent some time just walking along the river banks and looking at all of them. A dog which kept furiously paddling in circles was the only other real source of noise there – super quiet place.

From there, I wandered around downtown a bit, which was really not crowded at all. I mean, it was a weekend and a lovely gently sunny day out, but not a ton of people outside. Maybe its because Portland isn’t filled with a lot of people all the time. Definitely has lesser people than Seattle for one. Then again, if you grow up in Mumbai, even New York seems very easily bearable🙂.

Went and spent some time in Powell’s City books, which is a truly massive book store and has every single genre you might want to read. I bought a tiny book lamp to clip on to the book, while reading at night – but had to return it the next day since it didn’t work🙂. Anyway, its very easy to spend a huge amount of time here and then realize you didn’t do anything else you wanted to at all.

Bought a day pass and took a street car over to the South East of Portland to grab a meal at Portobello Vegan Trattoria. I reached just as it was closing, but they were very nice and let me eat my meal. Nice to eat my meal out in the sun on a porch🙂. The food was delicious too, I strongly recommend you go there if you happen to visit Portland some time.

From there, I took another bus or two to go visit Mt. Tabor. Its a very nice park, that goes up up and up… from where you can see all of Portland. I walked around quite a bit, followed some trails through the woods, but eventually I think I ended up at the top. Lol. But by that time, I was fairly high above the surface, so didn’t really care much.. whether I was right at the peak or not, as the view really was quite gorgeous from up there.

Eventually, I climbed down from there (they even had steps there to come down. Nice right?) and took multiple buses and trains and buses to get to my AirBnb booked house. I was quite excited about this too, since I’d never stayed in one before. Took me a good hour and a half to reach, but it was so totally worth it. Martha and Carl were really nice, the room was nice and they had a very nice cat that was very friendly too. Ate my Microwaved dinner, since there wasn’t anywhere I could eat in Vancouver, and anyway.. I was really tired🙂 and went to sleep.

The next day was a Sunday with reduced bus service so I had to time everything properly before leaving. I wonder how we all lived without Google Maps🙂. Specially, in the USA where people don’t generally ask each other for directions, when travelling. Its all paper maps. Someday I should learn to read maps better. The bus was a bit late, but that was fine – since the train in to Portland was on a reduced schedule as well.

Went and returned yesterday’s broken lamp at Powell’s, grabbed a donut and took a couple of buses over to Washington Park. Spent a lot of time at the World Forestry Museum, which was really cool and told you every single thing you’d have liked to know about forests – this is a real must-see if you are in Portland. From there I walked/ran over to the International Rose Test Garden to see how it was. It was quite pretty, but a lot of the roses seemed to be dying, maybe it wasn’t the best season to see them.

The free shuttle which would get you back to Washington Park station was really late, and I was worried that I wouldn’t get to the Southern Tram Terminal in time to take the aerial tram into Oregon Health and Science University. Luckily, I’m still fit enough to run fairly fast upto a quarter mile😉, so that helped and I managed to get a ride. Really cool, you hang way way in the air for 4 minutes and can see a lot of Portland in the process. Definitely look at the timings though, before you go there to try it out.

It was evening by then and I hadn’t had lunch due to running everywhere. Grabbed some food at The Sudra, which was quite cool. More trains and buses back to Vancouver after that. En-route I had a pleasant conversation with a guy from Bangladesh about buses to Seattle, AirBnB and immigration in general. Got off at Delta Park, where it was very cool that the bus waited for everyone from the train to get in and then left. Saved me a clear hour of waiting at the bus stop. Talked a bit with my hosts, had dinner and then went to bed.

The next day was quite cool, as I had breakfast with Carl, Martha and a few friends and said goodbye. It was a nice, leisurely breakfast where we talked about a lot of different things and Rose even kindly gave me a ride in to Portland and told me where I could go to spend the rest of my Monday. Walked the entire eastern side of the Willamette river, which is a much nicer walk than the west in my opinion – right till I reached the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. I was quite hungry at this point, so decided to skip it (specially coz it was quite pricey at 18$).

So took another ride over to Sweet Hereafter and had a Pretzel Burger, which frankly was quite average and very greasy. I’ve tended to notice that most bars I’ve ever eaten at, don’t have particularly great food. Oh well, its vegan so I don’t complain🙂. From there I took a bus over to The Grotto which is a Christian worship place and describes Jesus Christ and his life and disciples. Not that I’m too much into visiting those places, but everyone mentioned that it was a very peaceful place and had great views. So, I mean.. why not. The views did turn out to be quite nice as well, so it was a calm afternoon spent there.

Back to Portland, packed some food for the night from a tiny Indian food cart and repacked my whole bag to make sure it wouldn’t fall out. All those years of trekking and travelling light and packing really efficiently all come in use at these times🙂. Walked around a little bit and eventually made my way over to the Greyhound stop and caught the bus home.

Quite tired at the end, and I was quite glad to be back to Seattle, but I enjoyed Portland – its a nice little city. Until next time then …🙂